Skip to main content

Full text of "Rapid Population Growth Consequences And Policy Implications"

See other formats


ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES*
Public and professional attention to the economic consequences of population change tends to cluster about two poles of emphasis. One, crisis oriented, focuses on the possibility of systemwide disaster; famine, depletion of natural resources, and other ecological threats have been linked to population growth at least since the time of Malthus. The second pole of attention concentrates on the interrelationships between demographic and economic trends.
The word "crisis" is often attached to developments that are suddenly perceived but have long been in existence. Conversely, some economic-demographic trends are not called crises because they are unobtrusive or continuous; yet they may involve greater social burdens—or at least are more directly related to population—than do threats of "breakdown." For example, the social and economic costs from impaired maternal and child health resulting from high fertility may outweigh in welfare terms any probable threat of starvation or ecological collapse.
In analyzing the economic effects of population growth, it is important to distinguish between developed countries and much less developed countries. A minimum distinction in economic-geographic terms would separate most of Europe, the United States, Canada, Oceania, Japan, and a very few other countries from most of Latin America, Asia, and Africa, although a number of European-settled economies and subeconomies in these latter three regions may be classed as developed. With few exceptions, the developed nations are characterized by relatively long (50 years or more) histories of development, high incomes (with recent per capita gross national products, or GNP's, of about $1,000 as a crude but helpful dividing mark), and low fertility (birth rates of below 20 to 25 per 1,000 as an upper boundary).
The less developed regions, by contrast, have with few exceptions brief histories of development; current per capita incomes in the $100-$600 range (most being under $400 and those between $600 and $1,000 being more akin to newly developing areas than to developed areas in terms of basic economic structure and other indicators of modernization); and birth rates well above
*See the chapters in Vol. II of this study by Paul Demeny, Dudley Kirk, Harvey Leibenstein, T. Paul Schultz, and Theodore W. Schultz.d competition are favorable.